Turn Down the World

Today is National Day of Unplugging, initiated by a national organization called Reboot. The idea is to "reboot" the ancient, Biblically prescribed Jewish tradition of observing the weekly Sabbath. I couldn't agree more. In fact, I publicly confessed my technological sins for a local neighborhood newspaper that covered National Day of Unplugging, aka the Sabbath Initiative.

Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, is more than a weekly day of rest; it is also a spiritual practice, a mindset, an intention. Sometimes I playfully refer to it as "Shabbatsana," since there are so many people paying big bucks to learn how to meditate, or attend a silent retreat at a local Buddhist retreat center. But there are actually free, simple ways we can practice Shabbatsana, or observe the Sabbath, by unplugging from technology, abstaining from our usual everyday behaviors and carving out time to renew our souls, our bodies, our minds. 

Everything else will disappear

Do you think we could do that?

I think we could do that, yea.

Can we turn down the world,

Turn up the love.

–lyrics from "Turn Down the World" by Billy Mann

My recent yoga injury has forced me to slow down and unplug by necessity. I have literally been unable to move, or sit, in my familiar, habitual patterns. I have had to abstain from or modify some of my basic everyday movements and habits in order to heal. (I did manage to find some comic relief in the fact that I injured my sacro-iliac joint; there must be some ironic sacred spin on this whole thing!) Sometimes unplugging isn't optional.

Some of my Christian friends and colleagues are currently practicing a form of unplugging for Lent, consciously choosing to abstain from one of their regular habits or indulgences in order to prepare spiritually for Easter.

Unplugging involves more than just twenty-five hours without technology; it is an invitation to step outside of our comfort zones and connect in an entirely different way than we do during the rest of the week. Shabbat practice is not for the purpose of making us feel deprived or self-righteous–in fact, quite the opposite. Shabbat is actually radical, transformational, and replenishing.

Yesterday I watched a mother and daughter having lunch at a local sushi restaurant, and the mom was texting and emailing on her iPhone the entire time. They barely spoke three words to one another. So much for quality family time.

While I have delighted in reconnecting with old friends, ex-lovers or colleagues via social networking, it is hardly a satisfying substitute for face-to-face connection, a hug, a shared cup of tea. 

We don't have to wait to feel ready to change our habits; I think most of the time it's actually about feeling willing. When I am willing to tell the truth, or try something new, or turn off the Crackberry–whatever habit or coping strategy I want to cling to feverishly–Shabbat is a reminder for me to take a leap of faith, to be willing to let go even if I'm not ready.

Faith. Willingness. Turn up the love.